GENEVA (AP) — In a narrow diplomatic victory for China, the UN’s top human rights body on Thursday rejected a proposal by Britain, Turkey, the United States and others mainly Western countries to organize a debate on alleged violations of the rights of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the western Xinjiang region of China.
At the Human Rights Council, made up of 47 member states, 17 countries voted in favour, 19 were against and 11 abstained in a vote to hold a debate on Xinjiang at its next session in March. The vote amounted to a political and diplomatic weight test between the West and Beijing, and would have marked the first time that China’s human rights record merited a specific item on the council’s agenda. .
The result, prompting a round of applause in the chamber, followed days of diplomatic torsion in Geneva and many national capitals as major Western countries tried to build momentum on a report from the office of former UN human rights chief Michelle Bacheletpublished on August 31, which revealed that possible “crimes against humanity” had occurred in Xinjiang.
A simple majority of voting countries was required.
China blocked “no” votes among its usual allies, as well as many African countries and Persian Gulf states, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Somalia was the only African country and the only member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to have voted “yes”. Turkey is part of the OIC, but does not currently have a seat on the council. Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Mexico and Ukraine were among the countries that abstained.
“This is a missed opportunity for the Council members to keep China on par with other countries,” Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement. “The international community cannot disappoint the victims of the Uyghur genocide.”
The UN human rights office report refrained from calling the abuses against the Uyghurs a genocide, but some Western countries did.
The composition of the council changes every year among UN member states, and China – a powerful country with a permanent seat on the Security Council – has never been the subject of a country-specific resolution on the council. since its inception more than 16 years ago.
The proposal was simply to hold a debate, with no consistent monitoring of the rights situation, and amounted to about the least intrusive form of control the council could seek.
The call stopped before the creation of a team of investigators to investigate possible crimes in Xinjiang, or the appointment of a special rapporteur – a tacit recognition by Western countries that tackling a China increasingly influential would be a tall order.
After the vote, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a lengthy statement saying that “for some time now, the United States and some other Western countries have misinformed the public about Xinjiang and sought political manipulation in the name of human rights.” simply to smear China’s image and contain China’s development.
“The issues that the Human Rights Council really needs to focus on are the serious human rights abuses involving the US, UK and certain Western forces, including systemic racism and discrimination race, refugee and migrant rights, rampant gun violence, unilateral coercion. measures and mass killings of innocent civilians during military operations abroad,” said the statement, dated Friday but not signed.
China says it never backed Bachelet’s report and warned of bad precedent.
Michele Taylor, the US ambassador, said the request for debate was simply to “provide a neutral forum for discussion”.
“No country represented here today has a perfect human rights record,” she said. “No country, however powerful, should be excluded from the Council’s discussions. This includes my country – the United States – and this includes the People’s Republic of China. »
Human rights groups have accused China of dragging a million or more people from minority groups into detention camps where many said they were tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to give up their lives. language and their religion. The camps were part of what rights groups called a ruthless campaign against extremism in Xinjiang that included draconian birth control policies and restrictions on the movement of people.
Some major human rights groups expressed disappointment but promised to continue working for victims of abuses against Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang.
“Today’s vote protects the perpetrators of human rights violations rather than the victims – a shocking result that puts the UN’s top human rights body in the far-fetched position of ignoring the findings of its own rights office of the United Nations,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès. Squid.
“The silence of thirty member states – or worse, the deadlock of debate – in the face of atrocities committed by the Chinese government further tarnishes the reputation of the Human Rights Council,” she added.
China has called the prison-like camps, with barbed wire and guard towers, vocational training and de-radicalization centers. It says they have since been closed, although watchdog groups say many official detainees have simply been transferred to regular prisons to serve long sentences.
On Friday, as part of dozens of proposals before the council, Member States must also consider a proposal 26 European Union countries to appoint a “special rapporteur” on Russia, citing a range of concerns over mass arrests and detentions; harassment of journalists, political opponents, activists and rights defenders; and the crackdown – sometimes violent – of protesters against President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.